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Sweet Basil, Ocimum basilicum is an herbaceous member of the mint family. It is a delicate herb with a bold aroma and flavor, containing about 1% essential oil which has an intense, spicy-sweet, aroma and a slight anise-like undertone. Often associated with Italian cuisine, basil is native to the region surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Popular as a seasoning and easy to grow, basil is cultivated and used throughout the world. Basil will flourish in your garden or in a pot on a sunny windowsill as long as it gets lots of warmth, water and sun. You can snip fresh basil leaves into a pasta dish or salad and have your aromatherapy and eat it too!

In addition to its culinary use, basil has a long history as a medicinal herb. The Greek physician Dioscorides prescribed basil for headache. Pliny thought it was an aphrodisiac; his contemporaries fed it to horses during the breeding season. In modern aromatherapy, basil is used to cheer the heart and mind. The sweet, energizing aroma seems to help relieve sorrow and melancholy.

Basil is a polymorph, meaning it occurs in many different forms, varieties and closely related species. The different types are easily hybridized, producing many different kinds of plants with different essential oil constituents and compositions. There are cinnamon, lemon, clove and licorice scented basils; purple and green, curly and lettuce leafed varieties. Dwarf bush types with tiny leaves are grown as ornamental plants.

Two varieties of basil are used in the extraction of essential oil on a large scale. Reunion Island, or Exotic basil, is grown and distilled on Reunion Island in the Indian ocean. European type basil essential oil was originally grown and distilled in southern France but is now cultivated in America as well.

The constituents that give basil its aroma and flavor are linalool also found in lavender and clary sage; methyl chavicol, which is found in tarragon; and eugenol which is found in clove and allspice. Reunion basil oil contains camphor and little or no linalool. Because of its more harsh, woody aroma Reunion basil is cheaper and of little use in aromatherapy, which makes use of basil's mildly energizing, uplifting, refreshing qualities. It is often combined with other oils that contain linalool including lavender, bergamot, clary sage and geranium. Its aroma is both inspiring and balancing, akin to lavender oil but more energizing than relaxing. Some people are sensitive to the methyl chavicol in basil oil and may experience redness or burning if the oil isn't properly diluted before being applied to the skin. (2 parts basil oil to 98 parts carrier such as vegetable oil.) Basil oil is not recommended for use by pregnant women.

Basil Refreshing & Rejuvenating Blend
This recipe for a refreshing, rejuvenating aromatherapy blend helps relieve the physical and emotional fatigue associated with stress. This fresh, sweet aroma with its spicy green basil nuance inspires clarity and positive thinking. Featuring basil, bergamot, eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint.

You can combine several drops of the blend with 1/4 cup distilled water and diffuse it into the air using a candle aromatherapy lamp. This fresh, sweet aroma with its spicy green basil nuance inspires clarity and positive thinking.

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